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November 18, 2016. Category: Medical Malpractice

E-Cigarettes: Are They Safe?

It is common knowledge that cigarette smoking causes lung cancer and a host of other deadly medical problems.  In recent years, a new form of smoking has come onto the scene: electronic cigarettes.  Now a billion dollar enterprise, Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS) are small battery-powered cartridges that contain a liquid solution of nicotine (the chemical that makes regular cigarettes so addictive), flavorings, and other chemicals.  The liquid mix is heated into an vapor - similar to that of cigarette smoke - and the nicotine is absorbed into the lungs. Types of ENDS include e-cigarettes, vaporizers, e-pipes, hookah pens, and vape pens.

ENDS Have Not Been Proven to Be Safe 

For many, the creation of the e-cigarette seemed like the dawn of a new era; one in which it was possible to smoke without risk. But are e-cigarettes really safer than traditional smoking? The answer depends on whom you ask. Simply put, the easy answer should be: no.  

Many health experts believe e-cigarettes are much less dangerous than traditional cigarettes.  The makers of ENDS say the ingredients are "safe" but the vapor releases acetaldehyde and formaldehyde - known toxins.    The flavorings in the solutions may also be toxic.  Most importantly, the long term health effects are unclear and unknown.  The American Cancer Society says ENDS use causes nicotine dependence which could lead to the use of other tobacco products.  

A 2015 survey by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found nearly 60% of all adult e-cigarette users were dual users of cigarettes and merely using ENDS as a means to get nicotine in places where smoking is not allowed.  Some experts believe ENDS devices can be used to wean people to quit smoking, but current evidence is inconclusive. The CDC survey also showed that 30% of e-cigarette users were former smokers, and 11% of users had never previously smoked cigarettes.   The worry is that e-cigarettes will be a gateway to lifelong nicotine addiction.

According to research presented by the European Society for Cardiology Congress in August, the continued use of e-cigarettes, “adversely impacts the main artery of the heart, aorta, increasing its stiffness that in turn increases the workload of the heart.”   But this isn't new information.  In January of 2015, the New England Journal of Medicine published a peer-reviewed letter about the vapors e-cigarette users inhale contain many forms of formaldehyde which can be toxic.  Another study in 2014 found that using e-cigarettes has the same short-term effects on the lungs as smoking regular cigarettes.

In 2016, the FDA finally expanded its regulatory authority over all tobacco products, including all forms of ENDS. This important regulation could begin to curtail the popularity and delusion surrounding these high-tech alternatives to traditional cigarettes.  In 2018, the product packages must bear the following warning statement: "WARNING: This product contains nicotine.  Nicotine is an addictive chemical."

Statistics About Youth ENDS Use

Many fear that e-cigarettes are "re-normalizing" smoking or create a pathway to cigarette smoking for young people.  Some recent statistics are clearly cause for concern:

  • More than 3 million middle-school and high-school students were e-cigarette users in 2015, up from 2.46 million in 2014.
  • 16% of high-school and 5.3% of middle-school students were e-cig users in 2015 making e-cigarettes the most common tobacco product among youth for the last two years.
  • E-cigarette use rose from 1.5% to 16% among high school students in 2011-2015.
  • 81% of youth e-cigarette users cited the availability of appealing flavors as the primary reason for use.

We encourage you to remember that no cigarette is a healthy one.  If you have never smoked, don't start.  If you are an e-cigarette user, it is time to quit.

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